Kalpana Kotagal is a Partner at Cohen Milstein, a member of the firm’s Civil Rights & Employment practice group, and Chair of the firm’s Hiring and Diversity Committee. Ms. Kotagal plays an active role in the investigation and development of new matters for the Civil Rights & Employment practice group.
Ms. Kotagal is co-author of the "Inclusion Rider," referenced by Oscar-winning actress Frances McDormand in her 2018 Best Actress acceptance speech. Ms. Kotagal is working on this project in collaboration with Dr. Stacy Smith of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative and Fanshen Cox DiGiovanni of Pearl Street Films. Together they are working to help transform the hiring practices in the film and television industry. Ms. Kotagal is also currently serving as an advisor to noted filmmakers on a film addressing issues of gender pay disparities.
A noted public speaker, Ms. Kotagal is often called on to address issues of employment and civil rights law, class actions, mandatory arbitration, diversity in the workplace. She also speaks regularly to law students and new lawyers.
Currently, Ms. Kotagal represents female sales employees in a Title VII and Equal Pay Act case against one of the nation's largest jewelry chains in Jock, et al. v Sterling Jewelers Inc. Her clients have alleged a pattern of sex discrimination in compensation and promotions. Ms. Kotagal also represents former female sales employees in a putative class action against AT&T, alleging violations of the Title VII, the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Family Medical Leave Act in Hills, et al. v. AT&T Mobility Services LLC, as well as transgender beneficiaries of federal health insurance who have challenged the denial of transition-related care as discriminatory.
Among other notable cases, Ms. Kotagal played an instrumental role in representing Wal-Mart employees in the landmark Supreme Court case, Dukes v. Wal-Mart Stores Inc., a case addressing the standards for class certification.
Ms. Kotagal’s past successes include:
- Hill, et. al v. Donohue, United States Postal Service: Ms. Kotagal represented a class of disabled veteran job applicants, who alleged the U.S. Postal Service illegally required pre-offer medical inquiries during their application process. The case, which settled for $9.58 million, resulted in USPS’s agreeing to implement changes in its practices to prevent similar violations in the future.
- Aaron v. Pilgrim’s Pride Corp.: Ms. Kotagal represented 8,000 workers in 11 states in a wage and hour lawsuit, in which the workers sought redress for unpaid overtime. The $10 million settlement allowed class members to recover about 85% of the back pay owed them.
- Nurse Wages Matters: Cohen Milstein represented nurses in an antitrust case, contending that hospitals conspired to suppress and fix wages of nurses.
For her work on the Inclusion Rider and her other efforts in championing equity, diversity, and inclusion through her practice of law, Ms. Kotagal was selected as a Wasserstein Public Interest Fellow at Harvard Law School (2018-2019), won the prestigious Chambers Women in Law: USA 2018, “Outstanding Contribution to the Community in Advancing Diversity” Award, and was selected by The National Law Journal as a finalist in its “Elite Women of the Plaintiffs Bar” competition in 2018. In 2017, Ms. Kotagal was also recognized by Law360 as a “Rising Star,” an annual list recognizing lawyers under the age of 40 whose professional accomplishments transcend their age.
Ms. Kotagal is a member of the Advisory Board of the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative. She has also served as a member of the Center for Worklife Law’s Working Group on Pregnancy Accommodation and the National Employment Lawyers Association (NELA).
Ms. Kotagal brings to her litigation practice her experience as an organizer, having previously served as field organizer with Green Corps, a field director with the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, and as an advisor to a Congressional candidate in 2006. Ms. Kotagal also served as an honorary chair of the National Finance Committee of Young Lawyers for Obama in 2008. She currently chairs the governance committee of the Board of Directors of CISV USA, an international youth-empowerment and peace education organization with more than 20 chapters in the United States.
Prior to joining Cohen Milstein, she served as a law clerk to the Honorable Betty Binns Fletcher of United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
Ms. Kotagal attended Stanford University, where she was a Morris K. Udall Scholar and graduated with honors. She earned her J.D., cum laude, from the University of Pennsylvania, where she was a James Wilson Fellow. Ms. Kotagal was Articles Editor of the University of Pennsylvania Law Review.
- Member, Board of Advisors, USC's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism' Annenberg Inclusion Initiative
- Immediate Past Co-Chair, Labor & Employment Section, Standing Committee on Class Actions, District of Columbia Bar
- Board of Directors and Chair of the Board Governance Committee, Children's International Summer Villages, USA